In 1620, a ship called Mayflower left England filled with 102 passengers aboard, and sailed for 66 days before reaching the shore near the coastal tip of Massachusetts. There these travelers established nearby Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The pilgrims aboard who came seeking religious freedom suffered through a difficult winter. They remained on the Mayflower and incurred illness, disease, and malnutrition. By the spring of 1621, only half of the crew and passengers had survived. Without the help of Native Americans, the pilgrims surely would have perished.
One Native American, named Squanto, taught the pilgrims how to cultivate corn, fish in local waters, and become familiar with native plants. The first corn harvest for the settlers took place in November 1621. Governor William Bradford invited the Native Americans, including the Wampanoag Indians, to join the new colonists in celebrating a first “Thanksgiving” which lasted for three days. Deer, fowl, and Native American foods and seasonings were included in this special feast.
Prior to the mid 1800s, each state would celebrate its own Thanksgiving at various times throughout the year. On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln created a proclamation stating that the last Thursday of November be a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise.”
Today, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with a traditional turkey meal that includes stuffing, cranberry, corn, and vegetables. The meal is finished off with desserts such as Pumpkin and Apple Pies.
The early Pilgrims expressed their thanks and gratitude for the Native American’s help during that first Thanksgiving celebration by inviting them to share in their first harvest.
And you, how do you give thanks today?
Some sites to learn more about the holiday of Thanksgiving:
Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation http://abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm
History.com information on our first Thanksgiving